truth is usually a woman no one acknowledges…..
when you truly love someone, you want more for them…above and beyond yourself……..
and if they are ill, you realize your want is actually selfish….
you pray for buying more time standing at the edge of heartbreak
and in next breath out of your pure love
you find yourself incoherently praying for a quick release
for loved one who is diminishing right before your eyes from debilitating pain…..
such is pure love….a mix of quiet happiness mingled with grief of loss.
you mourn for both …….. I did that when mom passed away…pleaded for time and in next breath prayed for quick release from pain…
2016 has left me bereft and all alone
as I deal with another sibling’s loss…
I just heard my sis Neena’s voice on many phone calls she’d made on whataspp.. which I’d inexplicably missed ….I hug her voice close to me with hurt somewhat assuaged…….will hang on to her calls full of love and concern for my knee surgery et al…. c’est vie……..
I remember you when old Hindi songs we sang together play on TV
I remember you with every cup of tea as I always made you laugh at that time and you’d splutter and beg me to shut up
I remember you on your birthday when we danced together and you wished yourself happy birthday
I remember you almost every day when I see my face
and you smile back at me ….
I am a city
Having visited at least a good many cities around the globe and a big chunk of USA, a large bit of Canada with an equal helping of India I was wondering about my intake of these cities and how much inroad they’d made in my being.
happy cities are those that now abide in memories having given enough enchantment with a healthy dose of large saucer eyed wonder. these cities upon actual visitations are now beyond recognition hence they are best visited while relaxing in an armchair at home.
Memories of Bombay of the 50s and 60s or aunt, grandpa’s home in Amritsar with its unhurried laid back swish of skirt, turn of leg and those magic time bits with storytelling and folklore shares by elders accompanied by the mandatory hoopla and accoutrements. The batasha and rewadi sugar candies and Irani hotel mints and fresh paav roti can never be replicated as we too have reinvented ourselves beyond recognition having acquired more eclectic tastes with sinfully dark chocolate mixed with hot red pepper chillies being numero uno. those tall lassi glasses made heavier with burfi and paranthas with dollops of butter would be unthinkable for us now with an iffy digestion and snooty prima donna gourmand chiffons covering our blasé shoulders.
memories of hill stations be it around Bombay or up north near the lower Himalayas were so refreshing, straight out of Ruskin Bond and simple pleasures gave maximum joy then. Now, these places still fill eyes with wonder and enchantment once you only focus on nature and the majesty of the Himalayas and the valleys in loving company of kinfolk. One can easily train mind to tune out the jarring out of sync changes and partake “the swati” like a “Hans” and get inebriated.
Natural wonders of USA be it the Niagara Falls, Grand Canyon, various Caverns, Cascades and gorges, pristine blue lakes et al esp. Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs and deep Azure Lake Tahoe were/are my most cherished memories along with my first bird watching jaunt with an enthusiastic group of
ornithologists with first hubby. Another sepia postcard is of my attending a performance of Swan Lake ballet by Mikhail Barishinikov at the Kennedy Center in DC and a piano recital by Vladimir Horowitz. It was a a bit of heaven for the soul. Music does heal. Have done it all – Operas, Chamber music, woodstock, rock concerts, shows, rodeos, circus, wild drives on Daytona beach and in Canada….
Italy filled me with absolute wonder with its astonishing lofty architecture and the vision of their craftsman…having gone from Rome, Vatican (Sistine Chapel) Venice, Florence and then the Italian Riviera with its gorgeous lakes Bellagio, Como and Lecco, the little village of Rapallo and Cinque Terre tore out my heart with their incredible beauty. A lace making nonna framed in an ancient doorway in the tiny island of Burano will always stay with me as a beloved sepia postcard.
…to be contd…
I am a city …2
I want to add a few more “peaks” that got highlighted during growing years.
My handshake with Yuri Gagarin ( a luck by chance factored in I guess) – he was the first Russian Cosmonaut to shoot into space and was invited to India .
My absolute enchantment at the sight of Queen Elizabeth in her decorated carriage as she slowly floated away on King’s Circle street which was near our home in Wadala, Bombay. year was circa 1961 I believe.
My up close enjoyment of a film shoot featuring the late legendary Madhubala and Kishore kumar. Have yet to see someone more beautiful than her.
Some personal “miracles” as already shared in “My Amazing Grace/ Journey” series written a while ago. I have seen India’s first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru and his daughter Indira Gandhi in person in Bombay. Enough of Bombay now.
Stuff I recall the most wrt to our trip to England :
Trafalgar square with its pigeons, London Eye cannot recall going up in it; though we did see a couple of plays – one being Les Miserables and other Witches of Eastwick. Being a shopaholic Harrods quickened my blood flow and I enjoyed our visit very much. Cannot recall much of London other than our visit to Stonehenge. Ferocious bookworm that I was and had read tons of Victorian romances – so a visit to Bath was especially memorable- My highlight was Stratford-Upon-Avon – Shakespeare country – it was quite enchanting. Wish to revisit England god willing.
Dan Brown’s Da Vinci code and Angels and Demons gave so much impetus to enable us to thoroughly enjoy Paris and other European cities with their wonderful gothic cobbled streets and antiquity and overhead glowering Gargoyles
Paris lived up to my expectations and that made it memorable. Last year in April we were in gay Paree and luckily our tour group was less than twenty and we lucked out in tour guide who was a fount of knowledge veritably and generous to boot with his personal time- being an ex-pat American. Guided tour of Louvre with choice exhibits prevented tired feet and I’d already decided which “painters” were of interest to me hence…the visit was sheer eclectic pleasure. Da Vinci code made me see everything with “wondering” eyes. The glass pyramids inside and outside and the colored glass windowed shops inside the Louvre were beautiful.. we did all the touristy highlights but the churches were viewed with Da Vinci afflicted eyes and the pleasure was doubled. View from Mont Marte and the pinnacle of Eiffle tower as conquered by me were exhilarating and was toasted with champagne . The cherry on top were our visits to Giverny – Claude Monet home and gardens – that had to eden as it was achingly beautiful – and then our tour of the grand chateaux in Loire valley. One of the Highlights has to Versailles Palace which reminded me of the gorgeous Piti Palace in Florence. After gorging croissants day and night I did not touch one for a month after we returned.
I am a city….3
Let’s talk about my beloved New York State / City. – no matter what is done to our big apple, it will shake the dust, rise and shine as bright as ever !
have been through 911 with it hence we now have a history together and I love my town’s heartbeat as my own
I bit the big apple for the first time during Christmas and New Years somewhere in the mid 70s en route to Niagara Falls – Waiting in Times Square for the clock to strike midnight hour tightly packed sweaty bodies was rather heady then while now the very thought makes me giddy and pukey. Plus the thought and horror of imminent cooing calls of nature – all those people crowding Times Square during new Year’s Eve – do they wear diapers – have always wondered – okay, okay -please do not glare at me!
Newly minted hubby took me to 42nd street and all those adult places simply to see my reaction – a perfect blend of distaste, curiosity, flaming shame and embarrassment. Never liked seeing skin flicks – give me thrillers and murder mysteries any day. Enjoyed the absolute thrills afforded by my very first of dozens of sighting of the majestic Niagara Falls, on both US and Canadian sides. Then, as we were returning to our hotel post dinner, a hand grabbed me by my shoulder. I nearly jumped out of my skin! It was the Frankenstein monster !
I do not scare easily ( having slept with a ghost next door for real ) But I got afraid as I was unprepared. Whole 99 odd pounds of me shivered. It was a robot Frankenstein monster and we duly freed “me” and came away. Hubby had a good laugh and I never lived it down. Visited all the landmarks then like Empire State Bldg. for views, Lady Liberty, twin Towers and then later in 1981 again.
In 1984 we’d moved to India.
I returned to USA in Sept. 1999 and to live in New York city in December 1999.
Having lost first hubby tragically, his elder bro got me remarried to Ganesh who too was a lonely widower. It was a match made in heaven between two states – Ganesh is from South India and I am a north Indian. Not only do we have different mother tongues but our festivals/ holidays are celebrated quite differently. With some effort we’ve clicked and life is chugging along nicely.
Have visited all five boroughs of new York city and my first intro to life in NYC began with Brooklyn. Only Brooklyn I was acquainted with was from “Welcome Back Kotter” sitcom and the very thought of living in Brooklyn filled me with horror. I did not wish to lower the car windows for fear of stray bullets and all. ganesh kept saying Park Slope Brooklyn is a lovely neighborhood unlike the image in your head and now I know it first hand and love it here.
will continue later… on my beloved NYC
Part 4 I am a city – Sept.28, 2015
Today I shall visit in mind our go to summer spot the historic city of Amritsar, Punjab India.
Sepia memories and tender chiding voices call out :
– cajoling, ringing, preemptory, admonishing ….
Childhood is such a mixed bag of inebriated “larks” coupled with growing pains, real, imagined slights and bruises from falls and deliberate pushing.
Amritsar even though searingly hot during summers, never bothered us
as we had only fun and frolic “masti” in mind super charged with energy as all of us cousins were in those days.
I recall doing an early morning round of the historic gurudwara Shri Santokhsar
sahib. It was a serene soul soothing place even though such thoughts or partakes were foreign to us at that time. We were mostly interested in doing a parikrama (circling) the sarovar (pond) and paying obeisance as taught by the elders. Bare headed that we were in frocks etc. we had to borrow scarves from the person who minded the shoe racks.
In those days to pass the time I recall being given preprinted copies of word “Ram” that we had to pencil in each box – we laboriously did that and then each word was rolled into a tiny ball of dough to feed the fishes in the above pond. I’ve always wondered about those fed fishes’ salvation for eating all those “godly” dough balls. Did we also benefit from this exercise? that is a moot point.
Amritsar after Bombay’s concrete jungle was a city full of history and secrets. The narrow bylanes, open sewers and co-joined houses back to back were great exploration sites. We’d often jump over roofs and reach the end of the lanes like we often see in Bourne legacy and Taken etc. movies these days. Voyeuristic opportunities abounded too as we hopped from house to house.
Grandpa had a horse buggy and cow and a calf in those days. We got fresh cow’s milk with home churned butter topping freshly baked bread. The bread delivery guy “Kashi” was a fixture and we all looked forward to his run in our area as he came laden with freshly baked sweet breads encrusted with chubby raisins and then cut fresh fruit hawkers.
In those days a lesson in Indian history was subtly delivered by visits to Jallianwala Bagh where general Dyer was responsible for a massacre of 1000 innocent people gathered there for Baisakhi celebration. I remember feeling horror, immense grief and revulsion for the cruel Dyer and recall using all the cuss words I had in quiver which were rather paltry in those days but well worth mouthing. I doubt if mom would’ve washed my mouth during that instance.
Other historic places are fuzzy now. We however greatly enjoyed meandering through the narrow lanes in the old part of the city, marveling at the hustle, bustle and the amount of commerce that took place. Sweet water wells abounded in most open areas between narrow lanes and temples with beautifully crafted doorways and cool interiors. Pantheon of Indian gods demanded a huge amount of temples and hence these were found at every nook and corner of the old city.
Amritsar like its name ( nectar) holds a special place in my heart. Both grandparents and sundry relatives had houses there and thus we had many choices.
A visit most evenings to the Company gardens for delicious eats was a must and the buggy was put to good use.
Golden temple and Durgiana Temple were the highlights in visits, always and we
usualy went there a few times.
Golden temple of the Sikhs has this inexplicable aura that simply seeps into the soul.
Durgiana Temple nearby of the Hindus has this beautiful image of Lord Krishna and according to legend, while this temple was being constructed Lord Krishna came there on all fours as a baby – you can see the foot imprints of the lord in the marble tiles. I always touch them and feel blessed.
After these visits we usually ate all kinds savories along with sweets.
There was no fear of adulteration nor contamination in those days and even small amounts of money went a long way as they had great buying power.
Month and half of summer vacation simply flew past quickly and then we were back home in good old Bombay carrying heavy school bags with leaden feet….. the overnight train journeys in the Frontier mail were simply wonderful and formed a part and parcel of summer thrill.
ps: there is so much to add … after partition of India, I remember seeing cross border folks visiting grandpa in the middle of the night and both weeping. have experienced wartime in this city during other visits and cowering in the basement as war planes screeched past – Other tales of horror – so many unsaid tales of grief and joy which comprise the warp and weft of life and this resilient historic beloved hometown of Amritsar.
to be contd…
Today I’ve decided to visit all the flagged, so called peaks in the EKG of my life. This is one reading I can do without waiting for medical reports to come in and disentangle me from tenterhooks’ misery.
Most families have black sheep and “monsoon wedding like uncles with octopus limbs- I’ve had my share and reason why I recall them is the Tom and Jerry element of it – my cousins and I were quick on our feet and usually eluded these rascals. Molesters do come in many garbs and I wish the elders had warned early on before the fact instead of sweeping under the carpet later.
Olden days Bombay abounded with Irani Hotels around most street corners. We were no different. We were often sent on small errands to buy bread (pav) and butter from these places. One such hotel owner was a real lecher and dangled free candies as a lure. I recall us kids grabbing the candies and making a run for it. He was too lazy and fat to give chase. We had lots of “scramble” practice as we often stole guavas and raw mangoes jumping boundary walls of our building being chased away by a furious stick wielding guard.
We often ate hibiscus flowers but spat out raw papayas at they tasted yuck.
Another great memory is sticking our tiny fingers in the pickle jars “marinating” on our building roof belonging to neighbors and mom. Their taste still brings a mouth watering rush in mouth.
Speaking of roofs, brings back memory of maternal grandpa’s house where the street had back to back houses and the roofs had common walls. It was a great lark to jump over these walls and reach the other end of the street. Come to think of it, it would’ve worked perfectly for cops and robbers in our movies.
We often peeked into houses out of sheer curiosity and one memory I am ashamed of is peeking into a newly wed bride’s chamber on her first night. How we kids had tittered at that making up tall stories. They were Kashmiri Brahmin family and the bride was drop dead gorgeous.
Another great “roof” memory at grandpa’s house is of the lit tandoor and freshly baked stuffed paranthas liberally served with fresh home made butter and lassi. We put away so much food but were still as thin as reeds. One thing I greatly enjoyed was narrating english horror movies to maternal uncle and aunt and as my memory was impeccable I brought all the horror and gore alive- uncle (Mama) would shiver and hug his wife tight and we had a good laugh.
Dad’s sister too lived in Amritsar and her sprawling mansion was next to the rail tracks. We had fun at her place as well as they lived in one big joint family and there were cousins galore. Especially boy cousins who had other “boy” friends and we had a great time mingling with them. We enjoyed fierce table tennis and carom board matches among other things. One memory that is seared in my brain is viewing a bleeding head separated from its torso of a suicide that had occurred on the rail tracks and we had a clear view from the roof. I did not sleep for a long time after that. For breakfast in aunt’s house we were served fresh paranthas topped with ghee and rolled into logs- sometimes it was topped with jams. They drank gallons of tea and I think I developed my tea habit here. In Bombay we usually had bread and porridge for breakfast hence this recollection.
Dad mostly stressed on English language and was a walking dictionary as I recall hence my Hindi and Marathi grip were rather poor and learnt from the help or whatever we heard when mom read from the scriptures daily. Here in aunt’s house, my cousin bro read a lot of Hindi detective novels of Captain Vinod and his sidekick Hamid –guess our Indian version of Sherlock and Watson. Being an incorrigible bookworm and out of sheer boredom, I took to reading these books and thus polished my Hindi.
Before starting school in Bombay dad had engaged a tuition teacher Miss. Caur who was a real lady “Hitler”. She had mom oil our calves daily to enable her to smack us with a ruler in case we didn’t come up to snuff. I have always been too proud to cry and had deprived her of that pleasure. The sheer ignominy of it still rankles! Luckily Ms. Caur got married off soon by her uncle aunt as she was an orphan and dressed in our Sunday best, full of joy we waved her goodbye as her ship sailed away for Singapore from the Victoria docks, Bombay.
continuing so called highlighted moments of growing pains in 1950s Bombay –
Life as I recall was rather simple in those days and for entertainment we had lots of outdoor games
with droves of friends from same school, hood. I had a close gang of sixteen at one time and I recall
this due to number of birthday invites. We played eyes-spies, seven tiles, kabbaddi, hop scotch during
dry months in outdoor games and for indoor games we played with marbles and cowrie shells plus carom and
ouja-planchette boards during the relentless monsoon season. One evening it was exceptionally dreary, wet
and grey and the as the grown ups were at a nearby get together we decided to beckon spirits on the planchette.
The atmosphere was perfect – if only we could lure a spirit to predict our school results and satisfy our
curiosity on love and marriage. With one finger each firmly holding the glass down with flickering candles
for light and billowing sheer curtains we were quite hopeful when suddenly the glass started moving briskly.
For a moment we became fearful but with hearts in mouth we doggedly started taking turns seeking answers to
our burning questions. We had called the spirit of a known young person who’d died recently and knew us
as I recall. We all got ball park numbers as far as school marks were concerned and a couple of startling
answers that were not common knowledge. Then suddenly the candles blew out followed by a violent crack of
thunder and lightening and then a deafening sound of a craaaashhhhh. The glass fell from the table shattering
into smithereens even as the curtains billowed violently frightening us to death. Rather chastened and shook
up we all slunk away avoiding each other’s eyes. I am not sure if it was us moving the glass as a single
entity or if we had had a ghostly guest. It’s anybody’s guess.
In those days neighbors that we frequently got together with were punjabis and the Arya samaj faction of it
formed a moral police of sorts. I don’t recall mom and dad ever joining them preferring to keep own counsel.
In building next to ours was a Cinderella family with nasty stepmom and sisters. Our Cinderella was nothing
much to look at being spitting image of her dad with gaunt face and bunny teeth but we all felt sorry for her.
I don’t recall what brought events to head but one Sunday the whole community got together after the
ritualistic Sunday Havan puja. They congregated outside the Cinderella apartment and loud peremptory tone
ordered the family out. Said family trooped out and then the leader of the moral police garlanded the
cuckold with a string of old slippers and poured cooled down ashes over his head blackening his face
infront of whole community. They decried the fact that he couldn’t stop his wife from ill treating
the step child and forced him to marry her off at the earliest with everyone’s help to bring some
cheer in the poor girl’s hitherto sorry life. The stepmom was ostracized by everyone.
I was a slip of a girl and in early years was constantly coaxed to eat my veggies and fruits along
with fish oil and other health supplements. My dangles were mostly indian sweets, chocolates and puddings.
I think I grew up mostly on these supplements together with jello puddings. I was rather raucous when
in throes of hissy fits and tantrums and once at the end of his tether our mild dad scooped me up and
lowered me in a huge gunny sack with handles which he hung on the living room wall.
The sheer humiliation of it still reddens my face in recollection. I was put out of my misery
when I finally fell asleep in it and woke up in my bed. Dad was six two and he often let me play
with the ceiling fan when it was off.
to be contd….. maybe
conjure comforting fragrant medley
of fresh flowers and kanji starched
cozy laps and you then realize
loved ones, never really leave…
they make homes
in your heart
* kanji is rice water starch*
image is from internet
Certain images simply grab heart
Taking us back to childhood and
The joys of juicing life to the last drop…
This particular festival was earmarked for moms
With kids as they fasted whole day for growth
Health and longevity of their offspring. Fast was broken when stars were visible in the sky and then after the folklore attached to this day was heard
Via family priestess or family elder and then all
The kids were given sweets and money- there was a lot of fun and fanfare attached to festival esp. For us kids – my eyes tear up remembering mom esp. And how she doted on us all
Ps: we helped in making this etching on the wall inking in names of family clan along with our names